Game history

The 10 best skeletons in video game history

There is a surprisingly diverse range of characters when it comes to skeletons in video games. Nowadays, they are described as much more than just undead monsters. They can be allies, teachers, and heroes. They can become sullen, funny, witty, and even innocent. Of course, there are plenty of evil skeletons out there who are still beloved for their design and memorable fights.

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From horror games to action-adventure, these skeletons are memorable characters, each with their own set of unique reasons.

ten Skelly of Hades

Skelly talks to Zagreus.

Hades is an indie game that has taken the world by storm with its colorful art, adorable characters and addicting combat. One of those adorable characters was Skelly, a skeleton from the Underworld who was hired as a training dummy for Zagreus. He doesn’t mind being hit with weapons or being killed, because once he’s out of HP he comes back to existence.

You never expect a skeleton to be talkative, but Skelly is quite the talker. He is also very supportive of Zagreus.


9 Emil de Nier

Emil touching his face.

Emil is one of the many tragic characters in Nier. He’s a little boy transformed into a monstrous skeletal creature. For a skeleton, he looks particularly creepy with a permanent smile and huge, emotionless eyes. However, once he speaks, he lets it be known that he’s a good guy. In fact, he’s just a sweet little boy.

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While he was introduced in Nier, Emil is also a character in Nier: Automata. His skeletal form and magic allowed him to live this long.

8 Manny Calavera by Grim Fandango

Manny in Grim Reaper outfit.

Manny is a skeleton that everyone would like to have a beer with. He is a good talker with a great sense of humor and is the hero of his story. He has all the habits of a black detective protagonist, such as drinking, flirting, and smoking. He is resourceful, persuasive and can even be a good leader at times.

Manny was once alive, but it’s unclear what kind of person he was before he worked in the Department of Death.

seven Mario’s dry bones

Dry bones with tennis racket.

Dry Bones are skeletal Koopa Troopas and are as iconic as most characters in Mario. They were introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 in 1988 and still appear in most Mario games to this day. They served as both villains and playable characters.

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Mario is a franchise that has many installments, and Dry Bones is mostly in the role of enemy or rival. They are often fan favorites in terms of playable characters in games like Mario Party and Mario Kart.

6 Bloodborne messengers

Skeletons on the ground with scroll.

These little NPCs might be skeletons, but they’re actually a little cute. Traditionally, messengers actually help hunters by following their orders and exchanging information with each other. There are also some creatures that have messengers built into them. These creatures include winter lanterns, caterpillars, and the mother’s brain.

Players can even dress messengers in skins, adorning them with ribbons, top hats, or bandages.

5 Daniel Fortesque from MediEvil

Daniel's face up close.

Skeleton protagonists are rare in video games, making Sir Daniel a rare breed. He died (embarrassingly) at the first arrow shot in a battle. He, along with an army of the living dead, is brought back by an evil wizard. Daniel decides this is his chance to be a true hero and defeat the evil wizard Zarok.

While Daniel looks like a spooky skeleton, he has the heart of a knight. He loves to tell stories, play croquet, and be someone who can save others.

4 Gravelord Nito from Dark Souls

Nito awakening.

Gravelord Nito is a lot to watch, as it’s a giant skeleton filled with more skeletons. He is a Dark Souls boss and resides in the Tomb of the Giants. It is not optional and must be defeated to beat the main story.

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Even his weapon appears to be bone-shaped. He certainly has a design to make a beautiful manifestation of death and decay. His attacks even do toxic damage.

3 Death of Castlevania

Death flies through the air.

Death is a major villain in the Castlevania series. In fact, he is Dracula’s second in command. In most cases, death is a boss battle towards the end of the game in the clock tower (a symbol of the inevitability of death). Outside of games, Death even played an important role as the surprise final antagonist of the Castlevania Netflix series.

In terms of design, Death often resembles the classic Grim Reaper. His mantle was sometimes blue or purple, and he once disguised himself as a priest.

2 Sans and Papyrus from Undertale

Papyrus and Sans in the street.

Sans and Papyrus stole the show from Undertale. These skeleton brothers are comedy gold as well as adorable rascals. Fans have many theories about them due to their popularity. There are mostly a lot of theories about Sans, as he is the most difficult boss in the game and only becomes a boss in genocide games.

When it comes to video game skeletons, Sans and Papyrus are often the first ones that many gamers think of.

1 The backbone of Killer Instinct

Spine with sword and shield.

Spinal is an iconic character in his franchise. He’s an undead bandit thanks to an artifact called the Mask of the Ancients. In terms of alignment, he’s neutral badly. His weapons of choice are a cutlass and a shield.

With each game, its design has been improved. In previous games, he wore little. In the 2013 Killer Instinct, he leaned more into a pirate theme with boots, belt, scraps of clothing, and ropes.

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